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Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Mystery of Tiwanaku Phase 1

 

Statue near the entrance to Kalasaya Temple.

Statue at Tiwanaku site

Human history starts about 16,000 years ago in South America, when humans began to come down through Central America and entered into the continent of South America.  The history of the Aymara has been characterized by shifting pressures from dominant groups. They probably appeared on the scene around 2000 B.C in the Tiwanaku area. Prior to their conquest by the Inca around 1430 A.D., the Aymara are thought to have been organized into a series of independent states or sub tribes, which were probably also dialect groups. By "Aymara", I mean all individuals who were native speakers and not Aymara people and groups who make claim to self-identification as Aymara. The Aymara ethnic subgroup and mutually exclusive Aymara language cannot be considered exclusive to any ethnic subgroup. This is because different ethnic subgroups such as Qullas, Lupaqas, Qanchis, Carangas Lucanas Chocorvos, Chichas, etc. spoke Aymara since pre-Incan times until post-Inca times. Geographically these groups were settled in different parts of the present departments of Lima, Ica, Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Arequipa, Apurimac, Cuzco and Puno in Peru,  and in the zones of Cochabamba and Potosí locations of Bolivia, today, speaking Quechua, which is the most commonly used indigenous language today in that area.  The actual language of Tiwanaku is believed to be no longer extant.  However, I think it was related to Aymara language as indicated below:

 

Tiwanaku Aymara family tree

Tiwanaku- Aymara Family Tree

Basically, there are three schools of thought explaining the geographical origin of the Aymara language, (a)It began on the Titicaca plateau (altiplano Aymara localist theory), (b)  or in the central Andes of Peru current, (c) or in northern Chile today. The localist version is related to the state of Tiwanaku arguing that the Aymara languages coexisted with Pukina which was spoken by the ruling class.

 

Tiwanaku  alan Kolata

Alan Kolata

The leading exponent of this theory is the American archaeologist Alan Kolata. Whatever the language of Tiwanaku was, an account of the discussion of the linguistic, ethnic and historical Tiwanaku begins with Cieza de Leon, the first European to document his observations of this region, in the sixteenth century.

Tiwanaku Cieza de Leon Cieza de Leon

The site was first recorded in written history by Spanish conquistador and self-acclaimed "first chronicler of the Indies" Pedro Cieza de León. Leon stumbled upon the remains of Tiwanaku in 1549 while searching for the Inca capital Qullasuyu. Some have hypothesized that Tiwanaku's modern name is related to the Aymara term taypiqala, meaning "stone in the center", alluding to the belief that it lay at the center of the world. However, the name by which Tiwanaku was known to its inhabitants has been lost; many believe the people of Tiwanaku had no written language.  Cieza de Leon collected Aymara tribal stories of that time from these people that Tiwanaku (Spanish: Tiahuanaco or Tiahuanacu)   had always been a sacred place in the Inca state.  The first Spanish chroniclers were amazed by the size and antiquity of the structures at Tiwanaku, and for the next few centuries, a number of notable observers traveled to visit what became known as the "American Stonehenge" or the "Baalbek of the New World." The bleak and seemingly inhospitable altiplano landscape led some to view Tiwanaku as an empty ceremonial center, a pilgrimage site with no permanent population.   Of all the ruins in Central and South America, Tiwanaku has especially been a magnet for strange theories. In the early twentieth century, Austrian astronomer H.S. Bellamy insisted that the metropolis was a result of one of Earth's former moons crashing furiously into the ground. It was considered absurd to think that a civilization could actually flourish as high as 13,000 feet above sea level.

 

Tiwanaku Arthur-Posnansky-collage

Arthur Posnansky


Arthur Posnansky to whom we owe much of the fame of Tiwanaku, dramatically, launched a theory that Tiwanaku was the cradle of all cultures of pre-Columbian America.  Nevertheless, did not believe that the builders of Tiwanaku were descendants of the Aymara, which may have been politically pleasing to the politicians of Bolivia at that time, but was incorrect. Arthur Posnansky is one of the more important figures in Tiwanaku studies, producing one of the most detailed studies of the ruins after decades of investigations. Unfortunately, his theories of hyper-diffusion, exaggerated age for the site (10,000 B.C.), and radical ideas of race tainted an otherwise incredible career.
In the late 1960s, the writer Erich von Daniken concluded from his "research" that aliens set up a base at Tiwanaku and erected the great monuments using their extraterrestrial technology, which is possible.  He used as evidence a bizarre biblical interpretation that the prophet Ezekiel had been abducted by these same cosmic beings.  Erich von Danken’s theories have not always made a whole lot of sense. Sometimes he is wrong while at other times there is a chance he could be right.  
Fortunately, scientific investigations over the course of this century have corrected many of these misconceptions and left us with a deeper understanding of the complexity of Tiwanaku and the cultural history of the Titicaca Basin.